Never did I imagine I would become a writer. If you had asked me two years previous I would have bet the house against you. At the time, educated and world traveled, CEO of a consumer finance firm with well over seven digits in sales our first year, I thought I had found some answers in life. That was the first mistake on a long road of many, starting with a journey that would bring me from the apex of business success in the business district of Philadelphia, to living out of a tent in a wheelchair, homeless for a year. Oh, how wrong I was: Life had some surprises in store for me, including becoming homeless again.
Having just returned from living two years in South Asia, with my export/import business waning due to my lack of knowledge in contemporaneous fashion trends, it was time to find a new venture. Just a short time thereafter is when I ran into an old Irish Catholic friend from childhood, Dan Sheehan. In time, another local mutual friend, who ran his own successful company at the Jersey Shore, while at a Philadelphia NFL game, warned me to stay far away. He stated, “Dan is poison, he will outwit you and cause you tremendous trouble if you do not back out. Steven, get out of the deal while you’re still able.” Little could I have known the prescience of his statement to me that fateful chilly fall evening!
At this same time, being a supposed “spiritual” person, a big supporter of one’s inward journey, on a profound quest to the soul, an old friend whom I met on a flight to Tokyo in the late 90s, currently a Vedic Astrologer, Alexia, decided to try out her newly minted chart reading skills on me. This reading was not unlike others in the past, common themes of which I was already aware. But this one concluded with her telling me, “Steven, unsure what to make of this, but you will be off your feet if you do not heed the universe; or else, it will be a lesson that you will never be able to avoid or ever forget.”
Well, nothing at that time could have convinced me different; in my mind, I was on top of the world. Having just turned thirty-seven, and having lived and traveled the world many times over, creating a nascent wildly successful finance company, it appeared to me I was about to come into my own – that this was I had prepared for my whole adult entrepreneurial life, success was soon to be mine. Unsure if I even knew how to define success at that time, no matter how crude or disillusioned my self-import.
“On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.”
— Michel de Montaigne
But first a little background needs be injected into the story for proper reference and context. Up to this juncture, thinking I was a “spiritual” person, I thought I understood my purpose and direction in life. As with all events in life the benefits of hindsight allow us later to see connections that were preceding unseen and unknown. Though without any real clarity or vision on life, I could not focus on the red neon warning signs flashing in front of me – the lessons of life, the illusion of self-will – and all its confusing options and confounding choices, the branches of life that carry us on our journey can be misleading.
It seemed to me that everything was as it was supposed to be in my life. And it was, however, just not how I had imagined it in my self-constructed reality – and without my knowing. Our minds are masters or deceit and trickery, often keeping the ‘self’ in the dark. Little do we understand how the mind works, even after endless years of neurological toil, research and boundless longitude studies. Life, as well the universe, is merely a reflection – what we see in others we also see in ourselves. The cosmos is forever mirroring back to us lessons through the multiple obstacles and people we meet daily. After all, earth is a school, a place for spirits to ascend their vibration, thus allowing them entry into higher dimensions.
The ability for humans to [re]create their own reality through emotion and memory is utterly astounding. Our minds readily create totally new and previous non-existent events and memories to fit the narrative of our self-designed new reality – the one that fits the image of the projected life we are all living out on a screen virtually. Little did I know at the time I was where I was supposed to be – we always are – there are not mistakes in life. We need what we get and get what we need, as it is said – insipidly, it is true.
As it goes in life, we have our agenda but life has its own. And whose do you think wins? Not yours – life always comes out on top. Life as we expect it to go usually almost never plays itself out as we planned or originally anticipated. Alexia was in touch with the Vedic astrology charts, suns and moons and cycles of my birth chart, looking ahead at possible roadblocks to my self-imagined future. It was time for me to change, but was I ready? It was not long after when an old wise friend stated: “Steven, never tie a bow around it – a sure way to disappointment.” It was a lesson that would prove harder than any in the past.
Six months later Alexia received a phone call from my sister early on a Christmas week Saturday morning. She was calling from the trauma ward of Jefferson University Hospital in the city of Philadelphia. She jokingly said to me while on speaker phone: “Well, Steven, we now know what off your feet meant.” We both laughed. Finally, after four hours in the trauma bay they stabilized me. I had been beaten with a pipe and then found under an inner-city moving train. My first lucid memory after getting into the taxi the night before was waking up in a cold dark sterile hallway with a priest at my side. It was a bad night.
Later I would be transferred into the ICU unit, with five nurses caring for me, twenty-four hours a day, for eleven days. In the hospital a total of four months, including time farmed out to a shockingly horrid nursing home (to heal my bones) and a world-class rehabilitation hospital. Magee, as well as Numotion Mobility Company, were both key components in my recovery. I am forever grateful to my surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Rihn of Rothman Institute, my head therapist, Elizabeth Watson DPT of Magee Rehabilitation, and full-time cheerleader and recovery DC, with the 76ers 25 years, Dr. Neil Liebman of Advanced Chiropractic Center.
“Let us meet with bravery whatever may befall us. Let us never feel a shudder at the thought of being wounded or of being made a prisoner, or of poverty or persecution.”
Often, while living in Bali, Indonesia, a local holy man would tell me that all roads lead to the same place, no matter where we find ourselves in life that is where we are supposed to be. Do not fight it – accept what life serves you, with a big smile – that only we can control our perspective and reaction to life. The sooner we give up control, the sooner we are happier, he often quipped to me at the local temple. Even though I had awakened a quadriplegic, that was my cross to bear, and the earlier I accepted that branch of my life the sooner I could begin recovering my body and healing my mind. All healing comes from within.
If life is a plethora of different potential roads, each with their own infinite individual reality, all leading to the same destination, although under the illusion of self-will, then I was on the proper path. I was fully engaged in my quest – a profound voyage into the soul for answers. Surely, I was on my way, but to where? Though it was the greatest gift in my life, I did not choose the method, it chose me. And it was the express train to boot. Thinking I had picked a prudent direction (as if that means anything – if only to the mind of disillusioned maniac) but life was quick to point out, after many missed signals, and finding myself on live tracks, that I had taken a detour, and though still on the right path, control was not mine.
Here I was under the impression I had chosen the road less traveled. It was less traveled – it was mine, all alone. Little did I know my true journey and purpose would soon make themselves known – they were hiding right in front of my eyes the whole time. But isn’t that often in life how it goes, the most obvious storyline is right in front of us but ethereal life is too complicated a puzzle for our newer, rational brains to crack. It is only through living, in facing our scariest struggles head-on, by Doing The Dirty Dishes of life, getting our proverbial hands incessantly dirty in our vaulted existence, do we produce any growth of integral maturity in life. The sweats of our labor yesteryear are the fruits that we will reap of tomorrow.
The bigger questions started to rumble below the surface, my sub-conscious was churning like an upset undulating sea. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Was this my fate? What would I do now? How would I move forward? How much free-will did I have in deciding my future, if any – or was I scheduled for another, even sterner life altering lesson to make it all clearer – or was the train enough? One of my initial healers, an intuit, friend and world renown nutritionist, Paul Pitchford, to whom I am eternally grateful for his sage wisdom and sensible guidance, told me, “Steven, I am not so sure even a train was enough to knock you down. Your biggest tests will be patience and control.” He was spot on.
“Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together.”
— Marcus Aurelius
Over the next few years I embarked on an adventure, an extensive quest into the heart, which lead me to my soul, the darkest annals of childhood trauma and all the damaging mental baggage we collect on our way to our own personally gifted crisis. After all, aren’t these crisis our own [internal] creation, didn’t we agree to them before we were born into bio-cosmic [human] form on earth as part of our pre-birth planning session – where we agreed to every detail and aspect of our life? Why else would we ever get a feeling deep inside our gut that all will be OK – that soft, reassuring loving voice that comes to us when we think we have reached our final limit – a cosmic message sent to you by a spirit or angel guide.
It was not long after my accident, while trying to keep my struggling finance company afloat, when my childhood friend alighted me of ninety-three thousand dollars in cash, causing me to close the company and declare a total loss. It was only a result of such a process, being broken on more fronts than aware, that got me to the point of considering becoming a writer. Writing was always a labor of love for me; I did not enjoy doing it – I loathed it. With time and practice, it soon became cathartic, allowing me to extrapolate further life lessons, illuminating and elevating positive in all situations, even those tragic and seemingly intolerable – and if telling the story of my internal psychological battles, after ten years of hell, to others so that they too may extract meaning and lessons from my utter tragedy, than I was all-in.
It was also through the help of extraordinary therapists such as Dr. Julie Roberts and Dr. Rodney Napier, among other friends and professionals that helped me begin down the long arduous road to healing. Humans are psychosomatic: the mind and body are directly related. The power of being heard, the power of speaking ones heartfelt inner truth, the power of human connection reserves with it tremendous possibilities of hope and promise. Human connection, starting from the time we exit the enveloped safety of the mother’s warm womb, is everything to our development, it is what results in agency.
Only after the continued harassment of some friends who were well established published authors, who eventually guided me to realizing and understanding what power my story and recovery and healing held for others, how my perspective having suffered a traumatic life-altering event and subsequent tremendous (doctors would call it miraculous – but, of course, they know not of healing) recovery could help others who are suffering in life with struggle, fighting a disease or affliction, if only I were willing to write about it, to share it with others. It was then that I decided I would attempt to write my first book.
“My hat is in the ring; the fight is on and I’m stripped to the buff.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
After a Sunday afternoon of football with some friends at a local bar it was decided that the title of the book would be: Unbreakable Mind, Channeling your Survival Instincts after Catastrophic Injury. Knowing that the title could make some think it only had solely to do with catastrophic trauma it was kept as is, the most accurate portrayal of what happens when shit hits the fan, when all hell breaks loose in your life. Survival, once we get through the acute emergency phase, takes on a whole new and unfamiliar meaning to us. As we change and become a new being, a new self, so too do our surroundings and friends – those we associate with, and those who influence us – as does our story, our new virtual reality.
The book, written over a period of two years, with the last seventeen chapters being pounded out by divinely inspired key-strokes in six weeks, through the journey of my accident and recovery, serves as a story for anyone in life with struggle. It also serves as a tremendous story of inspiration and motivation – the triumph of man, the man who faces his biggest struggles in life, the man who faces his apocryphally agreed upon pre-destiny and foreboding fate. He is the true modern hero. The book has been a great success, sold in audible, electronic and print formats, helping countless others throughout the world.
Having shed the pseudo title of being spiritual, now matching my actions with my words, having forever journeyed into the darkness of the soul in order to discover my light, and meaning in life, understanding that in order to acquire anything of substantial integral value in life it requires hard work, inspired by a Buddhist altruism and analogy for life, I started a new company in order to help others: Doing The Dirty Dishes – one must till his hands in the soil of living, one must live life and all its experiences to the max, with all its trials and tribulations, ever remaining present and mindful, filling your garden with flowers.
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
Soon after, public speaking, consulting and coaching followed. Though at present, other than mentoring younger men and women, and providing therapy where and when needed, my essence remains focused on writing. Once again able to board a plane and sustain the treacherous trans-oceanic flights, and all that travel entails, I started flying around the world again, resulting in a Travel Blog – thereafter also starting a Spiritual Blog. One is directed to those for whom travel is a challenge in life and the other for those whom are insightful and introspective, respectively. Both are read in over eighty-four countries.
Never did I plan to be a writer but those were the cards life dealt me. And what was I to do? Sit and sulk, curl up into a ball and cry, dejected, lacking all interest and passion for life, becoming a depressed victim of life’s unwarranted [yet to be seen] paradoxical fortuitous circumstances? Life is so hard, you might as well fold your hand and exit the game – or, also one has the choice of becoming an unceasing survivor – a relentless persevering warrior on the inner-self-quest to slay his dragons, with each new dawn’s rising sun a fresh choice of slate of wonder and chance anew, abound with endless unimaginable possibilities.
“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting? ”
— Marcus Aurelius
No one ever summated Mt. Everest from their couch. Anything in life that comes easily is not worth having; anything worth having does not come easily. No pressure; no diamond. It is far easier to see fault in others, to pass judgment, than to dig in and deal with “our stuff,” delving into the internal abbesses of our emotion filled psyches and what needs paying attention to most, healing. The biggest bully you will ever face you see in the mirror each day; we are our own biggest critics. But if we allow love and healing into our hearts our dynamic changes, in every facet. The only person who we ever shall judge is our-self – and pray that we are a better person than who we were the day prior.
Aside from currently working on a second book, Unbeatable Heart (part of a trilogy – third: Unstoppable Wheels), will explain what the heart is and what is its true function, how to enter into the chambers that lead to the soul, and what do to what with what you find there – how to turn that into a meaningful life, replete with purpose and happiness. Plans are in the process to restart Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast in the coming months. There are plans also for more travel blogs in the winter & spring, Covid-19 travel permitting.
In my single digit years I thought one day I would be a farmer (though the irony that we all till the soil of the earth is not lost on me), in my teen years I thought I would be an international photographer for Nat Geo, then in my twenties I was sure I would end up living abroad as a businessman, rounding out my thirties thinking I would become a CEO of a large company, so when my forties arrived, to my greatest initial dismay and utter surprise, after suffering a tragic mid-life trauma that turned every angle and aspect of my life upside down, it turns out I have become a writer. It was my fate – and I am grateful.
For, without the aberrant aberrations of life, the dreams that funnel to us through our inner-self, our conscious, the myth we spin in the web of the mystery of life, it is life itself, living, that truly gives us meaning in life, happiness. And only through living by extolling others, with life as our mirror and truest teacher, by tilling our garden of joy, understanding and acquiescing we have no control over life, but only our reaction and attitude, seeking out meaning through a dark and horrific inner journey of the soul, welcoming the quest into the heart, molding our present from the infinite cosmic clay of self-reality, of ultimately, as a result of aforementioned, finding what we love, our passion, our purpose.
Funniest irony, the magik of the trail, as an old friend, Knud, would say, is that if asked my friends would tell you it was always my obvious path to become a writer and speaker. I still find it surprising. But hey, we all create our own reality – go create yours. All roads [eventually] lead to the same destination – where you are meant to be. In due time, with attentive introspection and indulgent curiosity, along with a little love and light, you too shall reach your intended journey’s end. Perhaps, upon close enough thorough inspection, you may discover [too] that you are already there – where you are supposed to be at this moment – embrace it, live in the now, get into the flow, the Chi of life. Teeth to the wind!
Travel Blog: Click here.
Spiritual Blog: Click here.
Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.
Thank you for your love and support.